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Tens of thousands gather for Raisi funeral procession in Tehran

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Tens of thousands of Iranians flocked to the streets of Tehran Wednesday to join the funeral processions of president Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

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In the centre of the city, people holding portraits of Raisi gathered in and around the University of Tehran, where Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is due to lead prayers for Raisi and his companions, including foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Raisi’s helicopter crashed Sunday on a fog-shrouded mountainside in northern Iran on the way to the city of Tabriz after the group attended the inauguration of a dam project on the border with Azerbaijan.

A huge search and rescue operation was launched, involving help from Turkey, Russia and the European Union. State television announced Raisi’s death early on Monday.

Raisi, who was widely expected to succeed Khamenei as supreme leader, was 63.

Read moreIranian President Ebrahim Raisi dies at 63 in helicopter crash

In the capital, huge banners have gone up hailing the late president as “the martyr of service”, while others bade “farewell to the servant of the disadvantaged”.

Tehran residents received phone messages urging them to “attend the funeral of the martyr of service”.

The processions, which will be attended by foreign dignitaries, are planned to set off from the university and head to the vast Enghelab Square in the city centre, according to state media.

Burial in Mashhad

Funeral rites for the late president and his entourage began on Tuesday with tens of thousands of black-clad mourners in attendance in the city of Tabriz and the Shiite clerical centre of Qom.

From Tehran, the bodies will be moved to South Khorasan province before being transferred to Raisi’s home city of Mashhad in the northeast, where he will be buried on Thursday evening after funeral rites at the Imam Reza shrine.

Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, has declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until the June 28 election for Raisi’s successor.

Read moreIran’s hardline Paydari Front eyes a political vacuum after Raisi’s death

Raisi, 63, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday
Raisi, 63, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday © ATTA KENARE / AFP/File

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who was Amir-Abdollahian’s deputy, has been named acting foreign minister.

The country’s armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri has ordered an investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash.

Raisi was elected president in 2021, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear activities.

The ultra-conservative’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.

After his death, global allies Russia and China and regional powers voiced their condolences, as did NATO, while the UN Security Council observed a minute of silence.

Messages of condolence also flooded in from Iran’s allies around the region, including Syria, Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, both of which are backed by Tehran.

(AFP)

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